This is an excerpt from an ebook coming soon with Red Rose Publishing. I cannot show the cover yet because it is being redone. I'll put a picture of a Severn House book instead (cover art is the property of the publisher). The book is a modern story about a woman who has begun a new business but then finds that her marriage is falling apart.
It had been warmer than this earlier in the year but there was a definite bite in the air that morning and it was already the second week of May. Perhaps the cool weather was the reason she was feeling a bit out of sorts with herself, because she was down and there was no real reason for it. She ought to be feeling on top of the world, Verity thought as she parked her car in the yard at the back of the shop.
The gravel crunched beneath her feet as she took a large bunch of fragrant lilies and roses and her cumbersome shoulder bag from the boot, before going through the narrow alley from the yard into the main street. This past year had seen the realisation of one of her dreams, something that gave her great personal satisfaction. But there was a problem, a dark shadow that hovered at her shoulder.
It was in her mind as she unlocked the door of her small shop, lingering like a bad smell as she keyed in the number to cancel the alarm and walked through to the back room, which she used as her office. She removed her warm red jacket and fluffed out her chestnut brown hair in front of the mirror; her eyes were that greenish brown that some call hazel. Underneath her jacket she was wearing a slim-fitting black dress. There was only just over another two months to her fortieth birthday but she didn't look too bad. She'd kept her figure well after Jane's birth and there hadn't been any more children. She'd been sorry about that, and for a while she'd hoped that she would have another baby, but somehow it hadn't happened; though there was no medical reason why it shouldn't.
Was that what had gone wrong between her and Michael? Had they grown apart instead of bonding into a family unit? Would it have been different if they'd had a son? She knew that Jane was very much her daughter and thought that perhaps Michael sometimes felt a bit left out.
She puzzled over it as she arranged her flowers in two old and rather beautiful cut-glass vases. One she stood in the little room that was fairly private but which, through a window, gave her a view of the shop interior, and the other she carried out to replace some dead roses standing on the desk that took centre stage of her window display. She stood for a moment to admire them, pleased that she'd taken time to stop and buy the flowers on her way in. Perhaps it was an extravagance to spend so much on fresh flowers, but she did love to see them about the place.
Verity was frowning as she returned to her office, picked up a tin of the special beeswax she always used for her antique furniture and took it into the shop. She had made it a practice to polish a couple of pieces of furniture each morning, to keep the place smelling of fresh polish and the potpourri she had in bowls set at various points about the shop. Her customers always remarked on the beautiful smell; it relaxed them, and her friendly manner encouraged them to trust her enough to buy. Her trade had started slowly at first, but people came back and her reputation had grown this past year.
Usually the very fact of being here amongst these beautiful things was enough to make her relax herself. She loved the feel of the silky finish of old wood, the way her cloth glided over the surface of a beautiful antique table or an elegant desk. Looking at them gave her a sense of permanence, of satisfaction, and knowing these things were hers to sell gave her a purpose. She was doing something she wanted to with her life at last.
Verity stood with the cloth in her hand as she considered. Had she wanted to marry Michael Lovelace nearly twenty years ago? She'd been pregnant with Jane, and it had seemed the natural thing to do – but had she really wanted to be his wife? She supposed that she must have done. There must have been a time when his smile had made her feel good, when his jokes had made her want to giggle, his touch had sent the blood racing through her veins. Yes, of course there had! It was just that it was hard to remember these days. He spent so little time at home. His business demanded attention six days of the week, and on Sundays he often played golf in the mornings. After lunch he cut the lawn if it needed it, otherwise he cleaned the car or fell asleep in front of the television.
She knew that Michael wasn't the only man to follow the same dull routine every weekend. Her friend Susan Edwards was always complaining that her husband Bill did the same thing, but she said it with a smile on her face, and a look in her eyes that told a different story. The magic was still there for Bill and Susan, but Verity knew that it had gone missing from her life, though she wasn't sure whose fault it was.
For a long time, while Jane was still a small child, she'd been happy enough; they had still shared a small joke or an intimate smile, but of late even those things had vanished. They hadn't had sex for weeks – they hadn't made love for more than two years, and there was a difference.
Verity hadn't forgotten what it felt like to make love, to know the warmth and satisfaction, the sharing that comes from being close to the man you care for. She had loved Michael once, perhaps she still did deep down. He was still undoubtedly an attractive man with his thick, slightly wavy hair, which was a darkish blond in colour, his blue eyes and rather heavy brows. But his character had changed of late and there were times now when she felt she was living with a stranger, and someone she didn't always like very much.
To a casual observer, Verity was the very essence of Today's Woman. Efficient, well groomed, with an air of confidence, a friendly manner and a look in her eyes that warned she meant what she said. Dealers liked her because she was businesslike and they knew where they stood with her. She didn't lie about her stock and she'd become known for having good, genuine pieces. But she had something more, a vitality that made her eyes shine and her laughter was infectious, though she wasn't aware of it herself.